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Why It Seems Like Your Friends Have More to Be Thankful For

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Why it seems like your friends have more to be thankful for

by Christina Lerman for the Conversation

Math provides clues as to why your happy friends are as happy as they seem. Have you ever felt like everyone else has so much more to be thankful for?

Check your Facebook or Instagram feed: Your friends seem to dine at finer restaurants, take more exotic vacations and have more accomplished children. They even have cuter pets!

Rest assured, it’s an illusion, one that’s rooted in a property of social networks known as the friendship paradox. The paradox, first formulated by sociologist Scott Feld, states that “your friends are more popular than you are, on average.” This property combines with other peculiarities of social networks to create an illusion.

What the friendship paradox means is this: If I asked you who your friends are, and then I met them, on the whole I would find them to be better socially connected than you. Of course, if you are an exceptionally gregarious person, the paradox won’t apply to you. But for most of us it is likely to hold.

While this paradox can occur in any social network, it is rampant online. One study found that 98 percent of Twitter users subscribe to accounts that have more followers than they themselves do.

The mathematics of friendships

Although it sounds strange, the friendship paradox has a simple mathematical explanation.

Each person’s social circle of friends is different. Most of us have some friends, and then there are well-connected people like David Rockefeller, the onetime CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank, whose address book included more than 100,000 people!

On social media, celebrities like Justin Bieber can have more than 100 million followers. It’s this small group of hyperconnected people – people with many friends, who are part of your social circle – that increases the average popularity of your friends.

This is the mathematical double whammy at the heart of the friendship paradox. Not only does the extraordinary popularity of people like Justin Bieber skew the average popularity of friends for anyone they are connected to, but even though people like him are rare, they also appear in an extraordinary number of social circles.

People central to social networks can shape public perceptions and trends. patpitchaya/Shutterstock.com

And the friendship paradox is not a mere mathematical curiosity. It has useful applications in forecasting trends and monitoring disease. Researchers have used it to predict trending topics on Twitter weeks before they became popular and to spot flu outbreaks in their early stages and devise efficient strategies to manage the disease.

Here’s how it can work: Imagine, for example, that you arrive in an African village with only five doses of Ebola vaccine. The best strategy is not to vaccinate the first five people you happen to meet but to ask those people who their friends are and vaccinate those five friends. If you do this, you are likely to pick people who have wider social circles and thus would infect more people were they to get sick. Vaccinating friends would be more effective at stopping the spread of Ebola than inoculating random people who may be on the periphery of a social network and not connected to many others.

Are you popular?

There’s more. Remarkably, a stronger version of the friendship paradox holds for many people: Most of your friends have more friends than you do. Let that sink in. I’m no longer talking about averages, where a single exceptionally popular friend could skew the average popularity of your friends.

What this means is that the majority of your friends are better socially connected than you are. Go ahead and try it for yourself. Click on the name of each friend on Twitter and see how many followers they have and how many accounts they are following. I am willing to bet that most numbers are bigger than yours.

Stranger still, this paradox holds not just for popularity but for other traits as well, like enthusiasm for using social media, dining at fine restaurants or taking exotic vacations. As a concrete example, consider how frequently someone posts updates on Twitter.

It is true that most of the people you follow post more status updates than you do. Also, most of the people you follow receive more novel and diverse information than you do. And most of the people you follow receive more viral information that ends up spreading much farther than what you see in your feed.

What you think you know may not be true

This stronger version of the friendship paradox can lead to a “majority illusion,” in which a trait that is rare in a network as a whole appears to be common within many social circles. Imagine that few people, in general, are redheads, yet it appears to many people that most of their friends have red hair. All it takes for the illusion that “red hair is common” to take hold is for a few hyperconnected influencers to be redheads.

What is going on. Andrii Yalanskyi/Shutterstock.com

The majority illusion can explain why you may notice that your friends seem to be doing more exciting things: People who are more socially connected disproportionately influence what we see and learn on social media. This helps explain why adolescents overestimate the prevalence of binge drinking on college campuses and why some topics appear to be more popular on Twitter than they really are.

The majority illusion can distort your perceptions of the lives of others. People who are better socially connected than the rest of us may also do more notable things, like dining at Michelin-starred restaurants or vacationing on Bora Bora. They are also more active on social media and more likely to Instagram their lives, distorting our perceptions of how common those things are. A good way to mitigate the illusion is to stop comparing yourself to friends and be thankful for what you have.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.


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Health

County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family

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LOS ANGELES – 300 iPads have been donated to Los Angeles County hospitals to facilitate patient-family communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift is through a partnership with the Annenberg Foundation, Brilliant Corners, and the Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships.

“The engagement of loved ones during hospitalization has been shown to improve clinical outcomes,” said DHS Director, Dr. Christina Ghaly. “Clinical staff identified a role for virtual visiting through technology in order to facilitate this family involvement. The generous donations by the Annenberg Foundation and MobileDemand will help support this critical element of our patients’ care.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient visitation by family and loved ones is limited at facilities in order to prevent exposure and the spread of disease. While there are some exceptions, such as the birth of a child or death of a patient, visitation is not permitted for the vast majority of patients and not allowed at all for COVID-19 patients. 

The donation provides 300 iPads to ensure patients and their families are able to connect, despite restrictions in access to the hospital. A second donation, by MobileDemand, provides rugged, protective healthcare iPad cases to protect against damage and loss. The rugged case also has an adjustable easel attached, providing effortless viewing for patients who are too weak to hold a tablet. Additionally, it frees health care staff from having to hold the device for patients.

“This is a wonderful example of how philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, government, and businesses can collaborate and meet an immediate need in our community,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “Being able to offer an opportunity for comfort and connection to those suffering and to alleviate some of the stress from our frontline caregivers is of utmost importance.”

While social distancing has been successful in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 surge in Los Angeles County, it is anticipated that it will continue for several months. With this gift, physicians and nurses will be able to place an iPad in the room of COVID and other critically-ill patients for the duration of the admission and reduce potential exposure and use of personal protective equipment going in and out of the room. Having a stationary iPad helps relieve medical staff who would otherwise have to hold the phone for a patient or search for the person’s personal phone. It also will allow patients who do not have a personal mobile device to communicate and “visit” with their family.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) is the second largest municipal health system in the nation. Through its integrated system of 26 health centers and four hospitals – LAC+USC Medical Center, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center – and expanded network of community partner clinics, DHS annually provides direct care for 600,000 unique patients, employs over 22,000 staff, and has an annual budget of over $6 billion.

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Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is putting a strain on essential workers such as first responders and healthcare workers who are on the frontlines in the effort to care for coronavirus patients so the City of West Hollywood is setting out to recognize them in a special way on May 6.

National Nurses Day is a day of recognition to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses have made and continue to make in our communities and throughout the nation. National Nurses Day is celebrated annually on May 6, which marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, a week-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of nursing and educate the public on the role nurses play in meeting the healthcare needs of Americans. National Nurses Week concludes on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, or as she was more commonly known, “The Lady of the Lamp” and founder of modern nursing.

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is coordinating two motorcades to honor healthcare workers on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, which is nationally recognized as National Nurses Day. The processions will begin at 9:45 a.m. and at 7:15 p.m. on Santa Monica Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard and the motorcades will head west and then travel southbound on N. San Vicente Boulevard passing multiple medical center locations in West Hollywood en route to a destination outside the emergency room entrance of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Gracie Allen Drive. First responders will briefly stop, exit their vehicles and applaud healthcare workers while wearing face coverings and practicing appropriate social distancing.

“Our nurses and healthcare workers are nothing short of heroes,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Lindsey P. Horvath. “The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us just how critical their work is to our everyday health and safety. This National Nurses Day means so much more to all of us — the City of West Hollywood and our LA County Sheriff’s West Hollywood Station and LA County Fire Stations; the City of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Police and Fire; the City of Los Angeles and LAPD and LAFD; the California Highway Patrol, and more — and we will honor these heroes in a special way for the care that they provide, which often goes unseen and unrecognized, in carrying us through this crisis.”

“As the worldwide response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, the critical importance of nurses in our society has been brought sharply into focus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John Heilman. “More often than not, when a coronavirus patient ends up in a hospital, it is the nurses at the frontlines who are responsible for their care and treatment, putting themselves at risk in the process. We can’t say ‘thank you’ strongly enough.”

The City of West Hollywood encourages residents and community members to participate during this day of celebration while still adhering to LA County Safer At Home Orders and social distancing requirements. Suggested forms of participation include amplifying posts on social media channels, making yard or window signs and banners, participating in a coordinated daily applause or shout out for nurses and healthcare workers, and donating to organizations that are addressing the emerging needs of nurses and healthcare workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) health pandemic.

According to the American Nursing Association, nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than four million registered nurses in the United States. Registered nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce and are the primary providers of hospital patient care, delivering most of the nation’s long-term care. In nursing, where workers are on the front lines of patient interactions, women make up more than 85 percent of the workforce. This year, with the onset of coronavirus, nurses have stepped up and shown the incredible impact they have on our healthcare system. It is more important than ever that we recognize National Nurses Day and celebrate the significance of nurses every day.

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Health

Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

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Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

(TMZ) — It’s becoming more clear by the day that wet markets are NOT just a China problem — it’s an American problem too … just take a look at these latest clips from Texas and California.

TMZ has gotten a hold of even more graphic videos of two different live animal shops in TX and CA — where people pick out the animal, have it slaughtered on the spot and then sold to them right then and there — and you see the mixed-in livestock runs the gamut.

There are pigs in pens, goats and sheep hoarded together … and, of course, as we’ve seen in New York and elsewhere — chicken and rabbits cooped up in cages — all in the same area within earshot of each other, and all getting butchered.

Ya got pigs hanging from hooks out in the open, chicken beaks, feathers and guts all over the floor and in an exposed trash can — this while customers (including kids) come in and browse the freezer for whatever cuts of meat they want. It’s downright dirty and gross.

As we’ve been told by the experts, these one-stop-shop slaughterhouses/storefronts can be breeding grounds for disease — including new viruses, like COVID-19, which supposedly got started at a wet market in China.

We already know of lawmakers in Cali and New York working to get these things shut down, but it’s pretty apparent there needs to be federal legislation rolled out to address this. Can’t call the kettle black when we’re swimming in the freakin’ pot.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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